'Ninja Gaiden' developer resigns from Tecmo, sues it

Rock star game producer says the publisher owes him a substantial amount in bonuses, but Tecmo denies it, saying Tomonobu Itagaki has gotten all he deserves.

If ever there was a rock star video game developer, it has to be Tomonobu Itagaki, leader of the Tecmo Team Ninja studio that just released Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360.

Easily recognized by his rail-thin frame, dark sunglasses, long hair, and devil-may-care leather jacket, Itagaki is the very image of someone who goes his own way and who keeps his own, very non-corporate counsel.

Tomonobu Itagaki, then of Tecmo's Team Ninja, poses in San Francisco in May. Itagaki has resigned from Tecmo and is suing the company in a financial dispute. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

But it seems to have caught everyone by surprise that, as reported by Gamasutra, Itagaki has resigned from Tecmo and is now suing the publisher for $1.42 million in a financial dispute over "unpaid completion bonuses."

"Before the start of development of Dead or Alive 4, Tecmo...had agreed to pay a completion bonus to me for this Xbox title, which I produced," Gamasutra quoted Itagaki as having said in a statement. "However, when the time came for the actual payment, Tecmo...went against its previous agreement and refused payment."

Further, Itagaki wrote that Tecmo President Yoshimi Yasuda "chose not only to violate this agreement, but also turned defiant, telling me, 'If you are dissatisfied with the decision not to pay the bonuses, either quit the company or sue it.'"

Following Itagaki's lawsuit, Tecmo released a statement--in Japanese--responding to the charges. It was subsequently translated by IGN, which reports that Tecmo said Itagaki was properly compensated.

"In the statement, Tecmo denies responsibility for paying the completion bonus mentioned by Itagaki in his complaint," IGN reported. "The company claims to have a bonus system in place, and states that it paid Itagaki this bonus every year. The bonus Itagaki mentioned in his complaint is, according to the Tecmo statement, separate from this and is something from the time of previous management."

So what happens now? Well, only one thing is clear: Itagaki won't be making more Ninja Gaiden games, or any others, for that matter, for Tecmo. Gamasutra said the developer had hinted at future work on a new action game, but no details are known.

On June 10, Geek Gestalt hits the highways for Road Trip 2008. I'll start in Orlando, Fla., and visit many of the South's most interesting destinations. Stay tuned, and be sure to keep up, both now and during the trip, with what I'm doing on Twitter.

 

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